Welcome back for another installment of 504 Media Mondays. Today, we will briefly cover a topic that could be covered in a week long course: Testing. Settle in and enjoy the read. Here we go.

As a web designer, I offer several subscription service packages (see 504 Media Subscription Services) to help a client host their site, update the content of their site, optimize their site for search engines as well as maintain the security of their site(s). The site security package (which i covered in detail in last week’s installment) includes software updates for your website theme, any plugins that are used as well as core software updates for your website. In the case of a WordPress website, each developer of those individual software plugins usually test their plugin against the latest WordPress software and regression tests against previous WordPress versions to ensure compatibility of their plugin with your site. Their responsibility usually stops right there. This is where your web designer comes in. Developer testing is only one piece of the puzzle.

As your web designer, if I’m contracted to maintain the security of your site, it is my responsibility to test that plugin on your site, where you also have other plugins installed. Due to the wide variety of coding methods used by plugin developers, there are often conflicts and compatibility issues that arise when you install certain combinations of plugins. Therefore, in best practice, we have to thoroughly test that new plugin version to ensure that it doesn’t break your site. We can achieve this in a multi step process.

  1. Create a Staging Site – A staging site starts as an exact replica of your live site and is the “environment” where you install new plugins or new plugin versions in order to test them. Because the staging site is a replica of your live site, you can ensure that if the new plugin or plugin version does not break anything on the staging site, it should be safe to install on your live site as well.
  2. Take a Backup Of Your Live Site – Prior to installing any new software or new version of existing software, it is best to take a backup of that environment. This will allow you to hit the “undo” button by restoring the previous state of that site before you installed the new plugin. It is best to keep these backups separately from the server your site resides on for disaster recovery purposes.
  3. Report Any Issues You Encounter To The Developer – once you discover an issue, report it to the developer of the plugin so that they can investigate. Some basic troubleshooting can tell them whether it is specific to your site and your combination of plugins or if there is a larger issue going on that indicates that their new version is the root cause.
  4. What To Do If You Run Into An Issue – If the developer isn’t able to help you right away, deactivate all plugins except the new version of the plugin you just installed. Does the issue persist? If so, then the issue may be related to the plugin in question and the version of WordPress you are currently running on your site. If the issue does not persist with all plugins deactivated, then start activating each of your other plugins one by one until your site breaks again. This will point you to the combination of plugins that is causing your issue.
  5. Never Skip These Steps – The worst thing you can do as a trusted service provider is skip a step out of assumption that it will be ok. Usually, the way it works out is the second you do that will be the second you encounter an issue. In that situation, not having a backup or not having tested will cost your client downtime. If their site happens to be revenue generating, you are causing an even bigger impact.

I hope this brief topic was helpful and helped to better understand best practices when it comes to maintaining your site. If you have a web designer currently doing this type of work for you, this quick post should provide you with the basic questions to ask to ensure these basic steps are being done.

Leave us a comment and let us know what you think. Have a great week. We will see you right back here next Monday!